While many people will point to Melbourne’s “Big Three” as the reason behind their early-season success, Storm players and officials have made no secret that it's the work of their unheralded forwards that has them unbeaten after four rounds.
Already without backs Cameron Munster (jaw) and Suliasi Vunivalu (shoulder); the Storm travelled to Leichhardt Oval sans big men Tohu Harris (foot) and Jordan McLean (calf) for last Sunday’s game against the Wests Tigers.
Their cause wasn’t helped when Christian Welch was forced from the field with concussion after just 17 minutes, while back-rower Kenny Bromwich also came off early for an HIA which he eventually passed.
That opened the door for the likes of Tim Glasby and Nelson Asofa-Solomona to get extra minutes off the bench, while it also thrust young gun Joe Stimson into the spotlight for the second time in his burgeoning career.
The 21-year-old has been a member of the Storm system for a number of years, with Stimson captaining the club's Holden Cup side before he graduated to Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup where he was named Storm’s feeder player of the year in 2016.
Having made his NRL debut against the Warriors in Round 2, Stimson was recalled for the trip to Leichhardt Oval and played a career-high 53 minutes which saw him make 80m and 30 tackles in a professional performance on the edge.
“That's probably the most exhausted I've been on a footy field for years,” Stimson told NRL.com after Sunday's game.
“It was very hot and the game was quick and we were doing so much defence in the first half, so for us to come back like we did was an amazing effort by the guys.
“It's 10 times faster than what I experienced in the Cup. The physicality is probably the same, but it's so much faster and it takes so much more energy out of you.
“I loved the opportunity to play big minutes today. It's something I didn't think I'd get this early on in my career, but they make it pretty easy for you down here because they just tell you to honour your role and if you and your team-mates do that, it should make for an easier game for the team.”
Stimson, who was on the radar of several clubs, said he was loving life in the Victorian capital after recently re-signing with the Storm.
However, he was quick to thank his junior club who he credits for making him the player he is today.
“I played all my juniors for the Temora Dragons. They taught me everything I know,” he said.
“I came down to Melbourne after I finished school at St Gregory's College. Terry Field picked me up – he's one of the scouts in the Riverina – I was playing in a country competition and he asked me if I wanted to come down for a few camps, which I did, and then they signed me.”
Storm coach Craig Bellamy admitted post-game that he didn't think Stimson would be playing first grade at this stage, but praised the former NSW Under 20s player for making the most of his opportunities.
“He came on probably a bit earlier than what we thought he would. He's a fit kid; he's not a big kid, but he's a tough kid and he's as tough as nails,” Bellamy said.
“We've had a couple of good ones from where he comes from down in Temora. That's where Ryan Hinchcliffe comes from so they breed them tough down there.
“He did a wonderful job today to play as long as he did. The impression that he made was great so it's good that he's been given a bit of early exposure early in the year.
“He came on at a really tough time, but he just kept getting his job done and that's what we needed from him.”